Monday, July 25, 2011

Tough Meekness - The Powerful Blacksmith cuddling his Newborn!

"I'll teach you to hit other kids!"
Fathers and grandfathers are expected to be tough enough to protect their families from all hazards foreign, domestic, economic and school yard.

Not being tough enough is a charge leveled against our current president. 

This excellent communicator in public apparently has a difficult time making his rhetoric stick in the up close negotiations with the opposition.  Reagan against the Russians with star wars technology was tough!  LBJ with anybody unfortunate enough to be on the recieving end of his chain mail charm was real tough!

As long as we're talking politics, my nominee for tough is a former Senator from Maine and later Carter's Secretary of State--Edmund Muskie--the candidate who cried.  As a legislator he knew few peers.  Few know that much of the clean air legislation of the seventies came because this saavy legislator would smoke big black smelly cigars in the conference sessions where House and Senate versions of the same bill has hammered out.    

Muskie's colleagues couldn't wait for an excuse to escape that smoke filled room to go out and kiss babies of tourist constituents, take a phone call or check with his office.  While they were gone, Muskie would slip clean air language into the legislation--and by the time other members of the committee held their nose and returned--the deed was done.  Each half of the congress passsed the conference report, the president signed it into law and Muskie kept at it, using that cigar and an iron bladder to full advantage.

I read someplace that Republican Presidents are elected to protect us, Democrats are elected to take care of us.  The ying and yang of politics represents the traditional roles of each parent.  Dads are there to protect.  Moms are there to nurture.

Bringing it down to a family level, toughness, make that meekness is essential, especially in both parents and always in grampas!

Traditionally the concept of meekness is synonomous with weak, milquetoast, ineffectual.  Most folks believe that when the Bible says the meek will inherit the earth, it's because they're too weak to claim it for themselves.

Consider this:  a church leader (LDS President David O. McKay) visited the junk yard of a good friend and agreed to give up his cherished gold watch for an experiment.  His friend measured the timepiece with a micrometer, set some instruments on a crusher machine and placed the precious watch underneath a heavy, heavy weight.  When he let it fall, the crusher machine stopped mere milimeters above the watch.

The leader said, "That is meekness!  Tremendous power under complete control.  It's the image of a powerful Blacksmith cuddling his newborn babe.

We enjoy a British series on PBS entitled "Larkrise to Candleford".  Last night the prosperous owner of the Hotel in Candleford discovers he has an illigitimate son--who by the time of the episode is about nine years old.   The father arranges for his son to come to Candleford from the orphanage far away and then has a riding accident and lands in the hospital.  His friends who run the post office take "Little Man" in and nurtures him til his father heals.   This wealthy man cannot wait to "take control" of the boy --and while yet weak and recooperating he lacks the self control to hold off and demands the boy be brought to him.   The father's lack of control colors the boy's life from then on--and he rebels against the well meaning, but demanding father.

Yakoff Schmirnoff, the Russian Comic once remarked that America was, "Such a country!  Where else can you take your children to Walmart so you can yell at them!"

Parents who aren't clever enough to give their kids five dollars and challenge them to find the very best buy  to keep them from whining, deserve what they get!

Meekness is such an essential characteristic of parent hood.  My friends Chris and Ellen,the parents of our adopted gramkids are the most meek in the face of seven active, sometimes rebellious little guys.  One night their number three, Cheetah Joe started building a tent with blankets on the furniture just as their Family Home Evening was about to start.  He was excited only about the tent.  

I watched his Dad gently invite him to join the rest of the family.  Nuthin' doin'! So they started without him--and he kept building.  Mom started teaching a scripture lesson and the tent kept rising.  "C'mon Joe, please shut it down and join us." she said evenly.  (At our house the gentle persuasion would have given away to a parental explosion and a confiscation of the blankets!)  

My model parents were still gently inviting and Cheetah Joe was carrying on as if they might forget about him---then came the next level--and from the Mom--Ellen, the enforcer!  Gently but very firmly she escorted Cheetah Joe away from his blanket skyscraper and led him to a "time out stool"  He went, cuz he saw the determined look in her eye.  She went back to the lesson--- Wait for it---one beat, then two and a frustrated scream erupted from Joe on the stool!   Though we were guests, Cheetah Joe didn't care.  He's a good boy--just a little willfully focused sometimes.

Fatherhood (and Gramfatherhood) can be spoiled by a lack of self control, that hopefully Cheetah Joe will learn over the years before he graduates, marries and moves away.

One father that I know has suffered two divorces among his children -- and one son that I know well avoids his father because of the iron control he still exerts.  He's an impressive church worker and excellent provider, but his grown children still quake and shudder because he still treats them like they're little kids. How sad!

I have a close relative who went through his own divorce recently because (in part) his wife didn't support him in his quest for more education.  She craved what she called ME time, and he hid out at a nearby restaurant to study, rather than go home.  When he did go home, he became more and more frustrated because she didn't cook and clean for him as his mother had!  When the house forclosed which they foolishly tried to buy with a variable rate mortgage WHILE he was taking out hundreds of thousands in student loans that only he felt he HAD TO HAVE--they went their separate, somewhat selfish ways.  Though they had a lot of fun trying, they produced no offspring, and wisely so---neither of them had finished fully developing their own self control.  Gentle self control is an absolute necessity in a parent (or Grandparent)

Practice meekness, Grampa,  and know that kids eventually grow up some--even if it takes til they reach retirement age.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Comfort Zone --Thy name is ELECTRONIC!

More than forty years ago was we would go tracting door to door as young LDS missionaries, I noticed something unique about Wednesday nights.  Lovely people who would otherwise have let us in on another night, answered our "claps" at the door and quickly asked us to come back another night.  We learned to do something else on Wednesdays because of the NOVELLAS.

I'm related to a few folks who are glued to the tube on Tuesday nights for NCIS, NCIS-LA and the Good Wife on CBS and several British Comedies on Saturday from 7-10.  I have threated to have a Whitman style sampler embroidered with the words, "Real Life IS an Acceptable Substitute for Television" but at my house I couldn't buy a convert to that idea for any amount

Some folks at my house are closer emotionally to several PBS chefs and a couple of CBS adventure stars than they are to perfectly acceptable negibors and most of our friends from before this electronic addiction.

Getting my near and dear to church or a neighborhood function is impossible--but I mis-state myself.  After six weeks of organizing a very successful Talent Show and Craft Display, I came home to my loving embroidery-mad spouse who puffed out her lip in a mock pout and asked, "Could I have displayed my hand embroidered dish towels over there last night?"

"Yes," I said sheepishly, "but you haven't come over there for so long that I just assumed you wouldn't be able to participate."

"Well," she rationalized,  "the band would have been too loud any way--and you know my allergy to organ pipe vibrations.   Wouldn't have worked anyway.--cuz I've been nursing a migraine.  Pulling my sweet spouse away from her plug in drug, her DVDs and her flashing light friends in the box of transisters and wires that has become her home away from home to mingle with genuine flesh and blood friends is more and more difficult.

Strangely she jumps to the chance to shop amid strangers at the local half a Wal (as we call our downsized Wallmart) But spending time with folks outside the family circle, away from her remote controls is less and less likely.

I belong to a church that has wonderful core principles--but with changes on earth come change ups among the faithful.   Older folks who cling to their pew in church in spite of all changes are legion.   A friend told me of one fellow who took a dislike to one of the counselors in local leadership and insisted on pulling the lobby couch into the overflow area at the back of the chapel and during reverent meetings, when the despised counselor spoke --the rebel unfolded a copy of the opposition newspaper and noisely turned the pages until that talk was done.

Maybe boycott, however justified by headaches, aching knees and gimpy tummies is better than a couch rebellion by somebody who won't go away.

About going away, I must share the story I heard a few weeks ago from the Chief Operating Office of the Salt Lake Temple, Lonnie _________.  He told a group of older men about a drunk who wandered into Temple Square in Salt Lake City to the great front steps of that magnificent structure just below a majestic statue of the Angel Moroni blowing a long golden trumpet.  (If you've ever attended a wedding at the LDS temple, you know the custom of brides and their wedding parties climbing the steps in one of six door ways and posing for pictures as they start their wedded life together.

The drunk started coming in around 3 in the afternoon carrying an open whiskey bottle that he had emptied about half way.  His tirade included shaking his fist at the angel and cursing out loud in the angel Moroni's name.    In such instances the staff had been instructed to call the police, and every day for several days the police did their duty.  Unable to charge him with anything other than exercizing his first amendment rights, He was free after each arraignment to return the next day and continue the harrangue.

The Temple leadership didn't know what else to do.   Then one day after a week or two of this display a temple engineer was working on the roof, below the angel, down on his hands and knees behind some granite faced trim when the tirade began again.   Suddenly, without revealing himself, the engineer in a deep and rather loud voice said, "STOP THAT!.  You should be ashamed of yourself.  Go away and never come back!"

The drunk's ability to distinguish between the giant angle sculpture and the voice coming from slightly below it was, to say the least, somewhat blurred--but the booming announcement had it's desired effect. The man gently rested his empty bottle by the side of the temple wall, turned his wobbling steps out of temple square, never to be seen again.

Climbing out of a comfort zone is difficult at best, the older we grow.   As the leader of a Sunday School, I once tried a new technique to consolidate the Sunday School class in a chapel setting near the front.  (It's tough to teach a crowd that has two or three rows between each other--it lacks togetherness)  I masking taped some festive pastel yarn to block off the last several rows of the hall and sat in the back to see what happened.  One very elderly gentleman came in with his ailing wife, saw the yarn and unceremoniously pulled it down and sat in the same seat he had occupied for what seemed like forever.

After the meeting with as much tact as I could muster I kidded with him a little.  As seriously as he could muster he informed him that he had bought and paid for that pew and he would have to be carried out dead from it before he'd ever sit anywhere else.  (I'd read that early protestant churches had auctioned off pews as a fund raising mechanism--but not in the Mormon faith--and not in Utah.)

After asking around and some rudimentary research, I discovered that he had been the secretary of the building committee that had planned and built our building.  He was the one who paid all the bills, and likely chipped in a few more bucks than most to make sure the work was paid for before it was dedicated.   He had "bought" that pew--and I never bothered him about it again.

Enjoy your comfort zone and remember that the only difference between a rut an a grave are the dimensions!